Article by Shiv Charan Singh

The Guru Ram Das Project is more than just an organisation. It is a community of people inspired to serve others. This article explores the significance of human community and service, especially in the light of the teachings of the Guru. Most of what is written here is inspired or borrowed from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and not really my own words.

 

The quality of life that we experience has a lot to do with the quality of the relationships we have with the people around us. The company we keep and the people we meet and the interaction we have with them. These are highly influential factors in the life we lead and the changes we go through or the effect we have on others. We live with great concern for what other people think of us. Therefore what we think of others can also have a big influence on their life.

Our relation to others also has a deep impact upon ourselves. For example when we respond to others with a smile it results in recognisable biological, emotional and psychological changes within.

Offering kindness to another person might help them to let go of old feelings of bitterness or anger to humanity. To be acknowledged and accepted by another person just as we are, without judgement or prejudice can be the beginnings of breaking out of internal prisons of guilt and shame.

Helping others takes our mind off our own problems. It also gives us a fresh perspective on our own life. We can realise that we are not the only person with problems and that our problems may not be as big as we imagined.

Recognising that someone has a need and finding some way to address that need is the beginnings of compassion. There is however a big difference in helping others so that we feel better or helping others beyond the realm of self interest or gain. The Guru says that serving without interest in return actually bears fruit in the ripening of our own soul. Yet even though there is such an advantage the true service is that which is done for the love of God and not for self-interest. The fruit is simply an unavoidable consequence; all actions are seeds that bear some kind of fruition of results.

“Through the Perfect Guru, consider this: without selfless service, no one ever receives the fruits of their rewards. Serving the Lord is the most excellent action”

(Guru Nanak in Sri Guru Granth Sahib p992)

There is a calling in the hearts of every human being to be generous. It comes from a simple gratitude for the gift of life. Many obstacles however inhibit the flowering of this generosity. Mostly these are a collection of vague, attachments, fears and historical patterns. Yet, even though only God knows the pain in our hearts, when we experience the selfless generosity of another person, it can open the otherwise unopenable doors deep within us.

It is a privilege to serve the truth and this is done in the way we serve others. In serving this inner awakening in others we actually serve the truth.

Selfless service unties the bonds, or attachments we have in the world. It is a training in neutrality. Through service we learn to be a friend to all, but the selfless nature of service means we keep our alliance with God and remain free of attachment to anyone.

Another way to say this is that when a service is, in every sense, freely given then we are available to see each person in their own uniqueness, while also remaining free to witness the common essence in all.

Wisdom inspires us to give in charity. All wise beings in human history have done the same. However it is not just the fact of feeding the hungry, or giving to a charity that makes the difference. But the attitude with which we give. Is it in the name of our own pride or in the name of the divine impulse in all? If we act in ego it also makes others do the same. When we give in the acknowledgement that God is really the only giver then this awareness is what we transmit to the other.

The Guru tells how the spiritual person sows seeds of the Divine Nam {truth} and inspires others to praise God; speaking the truth is the way to inspire others to truthfulness. He goes on to describe how this is done through selflessness and how relating to the inner essence of people supports the unfolding of soul.

“He is kind to all creatures. He holds fast to the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. O Nanak, such a Vaishnaav obtains the supreme status”

(Guru Arjun SGGS p274)

“One who burns away hope and desire through the Word of the Shabad, chants the Lord’s Name, and inspires others to chant it as well. Through the Guru, he finds the Path home, to the Mansion of the Lord’s Presence”

(Guru Naanak SGGS p414)

It is a compassion for all not just for one’s close friends or family. Realising that God dwells in all means that no one is our enemy. And we walk arm in arm with others.

Furthermore the Guru says that the path of the spiritual being on earth is to become radiant and carry others across the world ocean to the other shore. Part of the purpose of being a householder and earning an honest living is so that we might be blessed to give to others. In this way the true spirit of humanity is not only to seek uplifting company but also to make an effort to be good and inspiring company for others. Now if we are inspired to walk on this path it changes radically the way we relate to others. It is the end of many qualities that, even unconsciously, colour our normal interaction with each other.

Life Principles from Sikhism

  • No more slander, because in slandering others we build a house of straw that will surely drown us; and will have to reincarnate; the end of gossip
  • Not to get into entanglements that lead us to burn in anxiety; the end of bonds of dependency, the breaking of ties of attachment; the end of addictions as a way to short term peace that temporary delays long term suffering
  • No more deception or fraud; the end of lies; the end of being concerned what others think of us; no more need to make any show in front of others
  • No spying on others homes; the end of seeking, wanting, or taking, what they have; the end of envy and greed
  • Don’t get into argument with others; don’t blame others, we are responsible for the results of our own deeds; the end of anger and cruelty to others; rather practice kindness to all
  • Discard love, service or worship of anyone; it is God that we serve when we serve others; see the whole world as the body of God, every face as the face of God; the end of duality, and the way to compassion
  • The end of obligation or subservience to others
  • Not to beg from others nor think of oneself better or different from the beggar, i.e. don’t place our self above others or think we are great and others are small. Rather we learn to consider that we are just the dust under the feet of all

In order to walk on such a path we must look within and come to know and understand our true nature. Only with this understanding can we help others understand their self. After examining our own mind we come to act in harmony with the mind of God and can then instruct others in their own self-examination. This is not the same as preaching, which is the equivalent of cheating people by selling useless knowledge. We cannot tell someone about the nature of God or the soul. What is needed is a practical method for self-investigation. This is a state of the heart and very different from the ego state of self-obsession. It is for this reason that a life of Dharma is a practical life and the instructions for self-knowing emphasise right action. An internal experience is not a book on the shelf. Self-realisation is a way-of-life.

Following humbly in the footsteps of the Guru, the community of the Guru Ram Das Project are grateful for the opportunity to offer lifestyle [such as yoga] classes to those who otherwise would not have such an opportunity, to organise or participate in healing and peace meditations for the world, and to host the community environment of the Gurdwara where there is abundance of chances to serve others.

Quotes from the Sikh Holy Scripture highlighting the importance of good thoughts, words and deeds

“O Nanak, the Guru is the tree of contentment, with flowers of faith, and fruits of spiritual wisdom. Watered with the Lord’s Love, it remains forever green; through the karma of good deeds and meditation, it ripens.” M1 – p147

“The Flower and the Fruit of the Lord’s Love are obtained by pre-ordained destiny. As we plant, so we harvest and eat.” M1 – p 25

“The God-conscious being centers his hopes on the One alone. The God-conscious being shall never perish. The God-conscious being is steeped in humility. The God-conscious being delights in doing good to others. The God-conscious being has no worldly entanglements. The God-conscious being holds his wandering mind under control. The God-conscious being acts in the common good. The God-conscious being blossoms in fruitfulness. In the Company of the God-conscious being, all are saved. O Nanak, through the God-conscious being, the whole world meditates on God.” M5 – p273

“Fruitful and rewarding is that service, which is pleasing to the Guru’s Mind.” M3 – p314

“According to the deeds which one does, so are the fruits one obtains” M5 – p317

“The vine of good actions and character has spread out, and it bears the fruit of the Lord’s Name” M1 – p351

“The Word is the tree; the garden of the heart is the farm; tend it, and irrigate it with the Lord’s Love. All these trees bear the fruit of the Name of the One Lord; but without the karma of good actions, how can anyone obtain it?” M1 – p354

“Those who perform service and practice truth, obtain the fruits of their rewards.” M1 – p432

“The evil-minded person continually does fruitless deeds, all puffed up with pride. When he brings home what he has acquired, by practicing deception and falsehood, he thinks that he has conquered the world” M4 – p723

“Abandon all your clever tricks. Become His servant, and serve Him. Totally erase your self-conceit. You shall obtain the fruits of your mind’s desires” M5 – p895

“The good karma of past actions brings fruitful rewards, and man is blessed with the jewel of the Lord’s Name” M1 – p1039

 

Quotes from the Sikh Holy Scripture highlighting that God resides in all

“All that is seen is You, Lord, the expansion of the expanse. Says Nanak, the Guru has removed my doubts; I recognize God in all.” M1 – p51

“One who meets the Guru, beholds Him, and inspires others to behold Him as well” M1 – p154

“He is kind to all creatures. He holds fast to the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. O Nanak, such a Vaishnaav obtains the supreme status” M5 – p274

“One who burns away hope and desire through the Word of the Shabad, chants the Lord’s Name, and inspires others to chant it as well. Through the Guru, he finds the Path home, to the Mansion of the Lord’s Presence” M1 – p414

“Searching, searching, I have seen Him in each and every heart. I am a sacrifice to one who sees, and inspires others to see Him. By Guru’s Grace, I have obtained the supreme status” M1 – p839

“The Gurmukh obtains the Shabad, and righteous conduct. He knows the mystery of the Shabad, and inspires others to know it. O Nanak, burning away his ego, he merges in the Lord” M1 – p941

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